I’ve been to Kansas. Just a quick trip as I delivered our grandson back home after his week-long visit with us. Becky had done the fetching the prior week, and I did the return trip. No problems and just what we hoped for; Caleb had a grandparent with him as he traveled and both Becky and I were able to spend a little bit of time with Caleb’s family in their new home in Newton, a half hour north of Wichita. The flights were easy and on time; at seven years old, Caleb is great traveling companion. Kansas will treat our son and his family well as he has begun a year-long pastoral internship there.
But it is my traveling companion on the Wichita to Chicago leg of my return flight that has me thinking.
Ryan took the seat next to me as we boarded the plane and we exchanged a couple of friendly words. As the plane began to taxi, Ryan began to talk. We talked through the two hour flight and more – until I went to find my Philadelphia flight and Ryan went to find his ride from the airport to his parents’ house in suburban Chicago.
Ryan is 26 years old and already doing well in his professional life. His first job has taken him to Wichita; Chicago is home.
Ryan hates to fly. But a Labor Day weekend visit to his family in Chicago meant he had to take the dreaded two-hour flight from Wichita. Talking to his seatmate is one of the ways Ryan copes with his fear of flying. Ours was more than a distracting conversation about sports or politics, however.
Our son Christopher knows a handful of people in Wichita – he spends most of his time in Newton, a half hour north of Wichita. It turns out that Ryan also knows one of those few people Christopher knows in Wichita. It turns out that Ryan is serious about his Christian faith. It turns out that our conversation on the flight to Wichita not only distracted Ryan from his fear of flying, but went to good and meaningful places.
We talked about families and theology, the struggles of a young Christian in a secular profession. We talked about joys and frustrations, and, yes, a little bit about sports – Ryan is a diehard Bears fan; too bad – and politics. It turns out that we exchanged contact information and that Ryan hopes to meet Christopher for lunch in Wichita sometime soon.
As Christians often do, Ryan and I spoke of our faith journeys. Like mine, Ryan’s story is a story of being raised in faith and then owning faith. For both Ryan and I, our college years were important in that journey, the time when faith was owned. Ryan has been out of college for four years. Forty-four years for me. We have both experienced some bumps along the way; his are different than mine.
As Ryan and I shook hands in the Chicago airport, Ryan going to find his ride home and me going to find my flight to Philadelphia, we said we’d pray for each other. I hope those were words of commitment and not of cliché.
As I pray for Ryan, it will be about some of what we talked about – opportunities and challenges, Christian witness and discipline, avoiding some of the bumps along the way. I will offer a prayer of thanks to God for the opportunity to get to know another member in the family of faith. I will thank God for being a God who can use even fear of flying for his good purposes and to his glory.